IRVING, Texas – For the first few weeks of free agency, linebacker Rolando McClain hadn’t heard much from any teams, including the Dallas Cowboys.
But after a visit earlier this week with the Patriots in New England, McClain suddenly had a decision to make regarding his future.
McClain decided to stay in Dallas, re-signing with the Cowboys for a $3 million one-year deal, with a chance to earn another $1 million in incentives.
McClain, who has retired from the NFL twice since being drafted No. 8 overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2010, resurrected his career with the Dallas Cowboys last season when he joined the team in the summer. McClain was brought in as a long shot to replace Sean Lee, who had suffered a torn ACL in the OTA practices. McClain ended up starting 12 of 13 games played in 2014.
A finalist for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award, McClain had some clutch moments throughout the season, including game-clinching interceptions against both Tennessee (see photo above) and Seattle.
However, McClain did battle injury concerns all season, including twice in the postseason when he couldn’t finish either playoff game because of a concussion.
McClain should have a shot to regain his starting position at middle linebacker despite the signing of veteran Jasper Brinkley. The Cowboys are moving Lee to weakside linebacker.
McClain is expected to be fined four game checks by the NFL in 2015 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
TRUE BLUE FAN QUESTION: Philip Carey | Spokane, WA
With the news that Rolando McClain has re-signed with the Cowboys, how do you see the linebacker corps shaping up?
Bryan: My best guess at this point would to be McClain playing as the Mike with Sean Lee moving to the Will. The question now will be who plays Sam, and I don’t necessarily believe it will be Anthony Hitchens. As good a player as Hitchens, is there are some physical limitations with him there. He doesn’t have the length that you would normally see from a linebacker playing that spot. Where I see Hitchens playing as a backup Mike or Will which is a better fit for him. Dekoda Watson or Kyle Wilber are better fits at Sam which means this front office will most likely address that spot in free agency or draft.
David: I honestly don’t even worry about the Sam spot that much. From what we’ve seen of this defense and what we know about today’s NFL, the Cowboys can probably expect to operate out of the nickel on a consistent basis. That means the top duo of McClain and Lee will be on the field, regardless – assuming both can stay healthy. My guess behind that would be that Jasper Brinkley will be the primary backup in the middle, with Anthony Hitchens serving as Lee’s backup on the weak side. Sam sounds like a training camp competition between several guys – potentially even a draft pick.
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